20 x 20

Shortly after his ‘star turn’ as Pecha Kucha compere at IATEFL this year (held in Glasgow), Jeremy Harmer sent me a short description of his experience and asked if it might be of use or interest for this blog. ‘It certainly would be!’ was my immediate reaction. However, rather than just upload Jeremy’s description as is, I’ve been a bit cheeky. I decided to send him a few questions – a gentle interrogation, if you like – to expand a bit on how it felt to be The Main Man at such a big, annual event. The following post is, therefore, the initial description, followed by my interview with….. Jeremy Harmer.

20 x 20

This year, for the second time, I was asked to host the Pecha Kucha evening at the 2012 IATEFL conference in Glasgow. I agreed to do so with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Excitement, because I knew (if we got the choice of speakers right – and we did [see below]) that it could/would be a great evening; trepidation because it is difficult and demanding (boo hoo, I hear you say) to do something amusing which, at the same time, sets the scene, explains what Pecha Kucha is (see the link below), introduces the speakers and gets some audience involvement.

...keep counting..... Image by @vickyloras

I found myself searching for a theme. And then I had this great idea! Because people worry about using pictures and whether pictures are in copyright etc, why not use ‘creative commons’ pictures – i.e. pictures where the photographers/publishers say that anyone can use them! And the best resource (for us ELT practitioners)? Eltpics, of course.

And so I set about searching the various collections on the eltpics site. I consulted @fionamau and she made some great suggestions. But I found other funny pictures too which had nothing to do with my main theme which was ‘how to encourage terrified Pecha Kucha speakers’. That meant finding pictures of people from the collection and I found some great ones. I was spoilt for choice.

Did it work?

One of the stars.......... Image by elt_pics

Well that’s for you to judge. You can watch my Pecha Kucha introduction here. Much more importantly, you can see the 8 2012 ‘stars’, and very good they were.

I hope you enjoy it.  

What I discovered (as I was preparing my PK introduction) is how versatile any picture can be. Ss readers of this blogsite know, you can do anything with a great picture, and that’s why eltpics (I can say this because I was not an instigator and I am not a curator) is so damn good!


Jeremy, when was the first time you hosted or ‘compered’ a Pecha Kucha?

I first hosted a Pecha Kucha in 2011 – but I had been a Pecha Kucha speaker three times before that. My first ever PK ‘appearance’ was at IATEFL Exeter in 2008 (the first time IATEFL did one). I think I may have been more frightened and on edge than at any time I have ever performed before or since. But a kind of delicious edginess!

How did you feel the first time you were asked to compere? Was it not a bit daunting?

It’s both more and less daunting to host than to be a speaker. Less because you are not expected to ‘star’, as speakers are. More because I guess it’s up to you to ‘set the tone’, and most importantly to make the speakers feel good and comfortable.

What did you speak about then?

Time! (Because of the 20-seconds-per-slide thing!)

A little extra time.... Image by @SueAnnan

How would you describe the ideal Pecha Kucha?

I think the ideal Pecha Kucha event has (a) a big, friendly audience, a range of speaker personalities, and (c) a range of PK ‘moods’. Not all PKs have to be funny – though it’s great if SOME are!

What advice would you give to someone considering trying it?

Try it, try it try it!

Try it, try it, try it! Image by Victoria Boobyer

Why do you think this has become a popular form of conference entertainment?

I think it’s a combination of awe at the courage of the speakers – and it does take some ‘nerve’ – together with a wonderful mixture of the audience wishing them well but enjoying the spectacle of seeing them suffer a little bit! And (this is the important bit) the format actually ‘concentrates the mind’. In all the PKs I have seen, everyone finds their own unique way of rising to the challenge – and that’s great to observe.


How did you go about using eltpics when you were preparing? Did you look for pictures to match your ideas, or did you look for pictures that would give you those ideas?

I can’t remember where the idea first came from – but I was desperately searching for some kind of a theme to make what is essentially an introduction mildly amusing/interesting. The job (as I see it) of the ‘compere’ is to warm the audience up and introduce the speakers. I had no idea how to do that. Then perhaps someone mentioned ELTpics on twitter or somewhere (I really can’t remember). Or perhaps it was one of the speakers asking me about pernission to use images or something. Anyway, I just decideD to go and have a look.

I started by just looking around, browsing through categories. Then I got in touch with one of the curators, who suggested some eltpics with expressions/faces and that got me going. After that I just kept browsing – finding, for example, a picture of Rome’s Colisseum (which gave me a humorous line), a bowl of cherries and the boy facing backwards on the donkey! The more you look the more you find! I ‘collected’ about 35 pictures, and then had to discard them as the pecha kucha took shape. Once I had decided to get the audience to yell things out that kind of narrowed things down a bit.

Do it your own way.... Image by @klizbarker

Do you think you’ll use eltpics again?

Well I’m in the niddle of preparing a ‘big’ talk about using, abusing, and not using technology (whatever that is!) in language teaching. I will certainly go back to ELTpics (a) to tell my audience about them, and (b) to demonstrate some ideas. But I will also be using them for some time to come.

When are you sending us your next photo? 😉

I sent one recently of an extraordinary parking sign I saw. There will be more – especially if they have something ‘interesting’ to say.

* Have you read Jeremy’s answers to eltpics’ The Burning Questionnaire? Click here.

Image by @Harmerj


2 thoughts on “20 x 20

  1. Pingback: The First Batch of Burning Questions: Jeremy Harmer | The Burning Questionnaire

  2. Pingback: New Year’s Puddin’: first helping | take a photo and….

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